We are learning more about Africans who entered America on one of the last two slave ships. Even though they are long gone, the slaves have had an impact on the world of art.
Now calm and serence, the Savannah River was once a bustling, active route for importing and exporting goods in the River Region.
But, it’s proud past includes a perilous period that changed lives and later influenced a segment of art culture.
“The slave trade had been abolished in 1807 and really took effect in 1808. But, this was 50 years later in December 1858,” explains Edgefield County Historian Tonya Guy.
About 400 slaves were brought to Georgia on a schooner called “The Wanderer.”
Small boats were hired to take slaves up the Savannah River.
200 were taken through the dark, murky water of Horseshoe Creek and into Edgefield County, South Carolina.
“There are newspaper accounts talking about how intelligent they were, how quickly they learned when they came here and started working on different plantations. They were skilled laborers,” says Tonya Guy.
Although ripped from their country with an uncertain future, the slaves would not let go of a piece of their past rhrough the art of face jugs.
Guy says, “they’re very rudimentary. They’re very crude. They’re very small. It’s believed that they practiced the voodoo religion. So, they believed that they could talk to ancestors through the face vessels.”
The jugs are small in stature, typically three to eight inches tall, but they were large in meaning and symolism of home.
Since the ending of slavery, potters have recreated face jugs crafted after old ones that are scarcely found around the country.
While no one can put a true price on the service of slaves, collectors are paying high dollar to get a piece of their work.
“They do fetch a large price. At auction they could go for anywhere 12 to 25-thousand dollars,” recalls Guy.
Minister Fred Morton is the descendent of a slave brought over on The Wanderer. “He was stolen using a red piece of cloth which was a payment in Africa. In Africa you worked for cloth and you bartered and traded with it. So, they waved a piece of cloth which was almost sort of like an ad “come work.”
After arriving in Edgefield, his name was changed to Thomas Lanham.
Death stole his body, but Minister Morton uses this cane to keep Thomas Lanham’s memory alive.
“I went to the place where the Wanderer landed and there was a piece of drift wood that was cedar. I brought it and fashioned this.”
Though traditionally used to assist in walking, the cane helps brings stability and accuracy to the memory of those who were knocked off their foundation by slavery.
Morton explains, “I put the date 1858 that the ship sailed and these notches would represent important dates in his life.”
Dates long gone, like the slaves who were brought through this water.
But their face jugs will forever serve as a glaring reminder of perserverance that will never be forgotten.
“It’s a story of “look what God has brought me from.” It’s a story of just continue hang in there don’t give up,” Morton says.
Slaves from The Wanderer were sold and moved to areas including Augusta, Georgia.
The Wanderers were also known as compassionate people.
So much so, they helped a prisoner who was being housed in South Carolina.
He was a Missionary named John Ogden.
He would later become one of the co-founders of an historically Black school.
It is known as Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.